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Damned, The (2006)

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The Damned reviewStarring Todd Bridges, Victor Zaragoza, Jose Rosette, Chris Angelo, Elias Castillo, James Logan, Michael Rinks

Written and Directed by Jose and Ed Quiroz


The Damned is one truly appropriate title, as this movie is indeed damned. If you watch it, then you’re damned too. The tagline on the case should have been “Abandon all hope ye who pop this in their DVD player.”

The Damned is sort of like Fright Night in that it has to do with a murderous vampire that moves into the neighborhood of a young man who uncovers the terrifying truth and needs the help of his friends and a supposed vampire hunting expert to deal with the murderous bloodsuckers. There are some differences though — tremendous differences. The Damned is set in the barrios of Oakland, the vampires all look and behave like drug thugs whose skulls should be getting bashed in by Vic Mackey on an episode of “The Shield”, Todd Bridges of “Diff’rent Strokes” fame replaces Roddy McDowell in the role of the hapless vampire hunter, the trio of friends spend most of the movie sitting on the couch arguing over how they should deal with their vampire problem, the production values are slightly above the level of homemade porn, and in the biggest difference of all, The Damned sucks on a monumental scale. This is easily one of the sorriest excuses for a horror movie I’ve ever seen.

Someone, anyone, please tell me how crap like this gets released? This is an amateurish home movie, not something deserving of wide release DVD distribution. This does not belong on the shelf at Blockbuster; it deserves to sit on the shelf of the people that made it so that they can corner unfortunate acquaintances in the future with the phrase, “Hey, wanna see the movie I made?” I have to wonder if even the Quiroz Bros. think the film they’ve made is worth a damn. This isn’t guerrilla filmmaking; this is the filmmaking equivalent of backyard wrestling at its worst. I can’t think of a single redeeming quality, and I sure as hell cannot comprehend how any self respecting production company would think this is a film worth distributing. That the distribution company released it to DVD with some eye-catching artwork but didn’t bother to include a single image from the movie on the back of the DVD case should tell you that even they knew the film they were putting out was worthless garbage. Damn you, Image Entertainment!

Do I just keep renting the horrendous ones or is horrendous filmmaking the norm for no budget urban horror movies these days? I’m hard pressed to think of a single one I’ve watched that didn’t end in tears on my part. The Quiroz Bros. previously made one called Hood of the Living Dead, a film I did not see but the fact that they’ve already made a film tells me they cannot even use the first-time filmmaker excuse to justify just how rotten their new one is.

After young Tom Castro inadvertently stumbles upon the truth about the new neighbors and stakes one with his broken baseball bat, the vampires vow bloody vengeance. Their repeatedly clumsy attempts at doing so consist mainly of sneaking up on either Tom or his two buds, a skinny horror movie geek and a chubby non-horror movie geek, then standing there snarling or cackling at them, showing off their fangs, and patiently waiting for someone to do something to run them off. It gets so pathetic that at one point the following actual dialog exchange takes place between two of the vamps:

“Why didn’t we kill them last night?”

“Because they were expecting us to.”

Oh, is that why? And here I thought it was because if they had, then the movie would have only been 35 minutes long, not that I would have been upset if it had been.

Enter Todd Bridges (“Willis” in the classic TV catchphrase “What you talkin’ ’bout, Willis?”) as a bumbling private investigator turned wannabe vampire hunter who has been pursuing this particular vampire clan along with his Caucasian sidekick that looks like a smaller, surfer dude version of ‘Dauber’ from the sitcom “Coach”. Todd Bridges looks like Sir Laurence Olivier compared to the rest of this cast. I cannot use the word “actor” to describe the truly atrocious attempts at acting on the part of the cast. “People that recite lines of scripted dialog” would be a more fitting description, although they’re not even particularly good at doing that little.

Tom and company will spend much of the movie sitting around the living room (at least half the film takes place here) arguing over the possible existence of vampires and, once they finally agree on the topic, figuring out what they’re going to do about it. To break up the monotony they’ll occasionally have these conversations standing up, and in one scene they actually go outside to talk. Likewise, the vampires also prefer to stand around their new residence and talk about killing Tom and his friends. They break up their monotony by either venturing out to feed on characters that are introduced just long enough so they can be killed off moments later or going about their insipid attempts to wreak havoc on our heroes. And let’s not forget about those edge-of-your-seat scenes in which the main police investigator and the head forensic scientist discuss the murders in great detail. The police actually blame the vampire killings on a rogue mountain lion at first. This is yet another subplot that just keeps going around in circles.

The movie attempts to have something resembling a storyline, but it’s such a directionless mess that it always falls back on people sitting or standing around talking like they’re reading from cue cards (badly!) with the occasional pathetic vampire encounter tossed in, and all this goes on for what feels like 76 minutes of eternity. I haven’t even mentioned the painful punk rock that permeates the film’s soundtrack. Somewhere in heaven, The Ramones are weeping.

About the only good thing that can come from a movie like The Damned is that it should give inspiration to all wannabe filmmakers out there that they too can get their film nationally distributed in the biggest video store chains in the country regardless of how terrible it is on every conceivable level. On second thought, that might not be such a good thing after all.

0 out of 5

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Friends Don’t Let Friends Review – A Haunting Mixture of Psychological Turmoil and Brutal Supernatural Horror

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Starring Brittany Anne Woodford, Jenny Curtis, Kanin Guntzelman, Brendan McGowan, Jake White

Directed by James S. Brown

We all like to think of ourselves as being surrounded by friends, but let’s face it, if we were to ever truly hit hard times, there are probably very few, if any, people we could truly rely on. So on some level, Friends Don’t Let Friends is a film we can all relate too, as it deals with this very issue.

Stephanie is an emotionally unstable young woman who strangles her boyfriend to death after he insults and breaks up with her. She calls her friends to help her dispose the body out in the Joshua Tree National Part area, and instead of reporting her to the police, they reluctantly comply. As their car breaks down, the four friends find themselves alone at night in the Californian wilderness with the rotting corpse in need of disposal. Given their dire circumstances, they begin to become more and more aggressive towards each other, and this was where the film was really at its best. I was on the edge of my seat, wondering how far the limits of their friendship could be stretched, and who would be the first to crack and turn on the others.

Anyway, their body disposal endeavor soon proves to be a mistake, as Stephanie’s ex rises from the grave as vengeful zombie demon thing with claws as long as knives. I’ll admit, I first I thought Friends Don’t Let Friends was going to be a movie purely about the limits of trust, so I was pretty surprised when the supernatural elements came into play. And when they did, the trust and friendship elements of the plot were somewhat downplayed in favor of a more traditional horror approach, and while it was still entertaining, I still would have preferred for the film not to have strayed from its initial path. At least the ending came as a shocker. I won’t go into spoilers, but let’s just say the even the most attentive viewers probably won’t see it coming.

As you can probably guess from a psychologically-driven film of this kind, the performances were top notch, with Brittany Anne Woodford being on particularly top form as the manipulative and unstable Stephanie, a character who revels in the revels in the power she felt when ending another human life.

With its mixture of psychological turmoil and brutal supernatural horror, Friends Don’t Let Friends is a film I would certainly recommend, but keep in mind that it may make you think twice when confiding in people who you think of as being your friends.

8 out of 10.

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Coulrophobia Review – One of the Most Entertaining Killer Clown Films in Quite Some Time

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Starring Pete Bennett, Warren Speed, Daniella D’Ville, Roxy Bordeaux

Directed by Warren Speed


The word ‘Coulrophobia’ refers to the fear of clowns, and if you happen to suffer from it, you might want to avoid director Warren Speed’s film of the same name. However, if you can stand the sight of clowns with gaping wounds in their manly parts, then you’re in for one heck of a fun time.

An all-female hockey team get lost deep in the Scottish woods on their way to a match (don’t ask), and are captured and forced to participate in a series of horrific games by the Grock family of clowns. All of the members of said family are absolutely fucking insane, but the one that really stood out was Twitch (Pete Bennett), who wears jester cloths and it said to have a short attention span. He longs to be a violin player and wishes he could blend in with normal society like the other members of his family. And you almost feel sorry for him, even though he’s a mad killer with bells on his head.

Director Warren Speed also appeared as Milo, a grunting mute who had his tongue cut out when he was a boy. As mentioned above, we see a close-up shot of a open wound in his penis being stitched up, which is not an image that will be leaving your mind anytime soon. Speed is clearly fearless when it comes to his art.

Inter-spliced with all the torture and mayhem, we also see documentary-style telling the sad history of the family involved, and this was where the film unfortunately faltered, because these scenes seemed out of place and just didn’t flow with the rest of the plot.

Ultimately, however, Coulrophobia almost seems like a film Rob Zombie might have made before he lost his way and started churning out trash like 31. Comparisons to House of 1000 Corpses are inevitable, and I absolutely mean that as a compliment. This is one of the most entertaining killer clown films in quite some time.

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User Rating 2.95 (19 votes)
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The Gatehouse Review – What Is Found in the Woods Should Be Left in the Woods

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Starring Scarlett Rayner, Simeon Willis, Linal Haft

Directed by Martin Gooch


Now while no one will sneeze at the prospect of bringing up a bit of a rebellious child alone, it’s those damned kids that like to tempt fate by pissing off creatures in the woods…oh kids, they do the funniest things, don’t they?

In Martin Gooch’s moderately spooky presentation, The Gatehouse, a struggling writer named Jack (Willis) finds himself behind the 8-ball following the tragic drowning death of his beloved wife, and if that isn’t enough to torque your drawers, his young daughter, Eternity (Rayner) is becoming quite the salty soul herself. Unfortunately the little one has been finding herself bullied at school, and her recourse of sorts is to simply toss attitude around as if it was pleasantly acceptable. Her pastime has become lonely wanderings in the deep woods, digging for hopeful treasures…and we all know what problems reside in the woods, don’t we, horror fans? Well, Eternity’s father is attempting to re-start his writing career with a frightening backstory – taking the reigns on a novel that was abruptly ended when the author committed suicide, and supposedly the tome is quite the dark piece of literature.

Eternity’s never-ending quest for fortune and glory in the forest leads her to a most interesting (and ultimately) dangerous discovery (don’t sweat it – I won’t spill it for you). Bottom line here is this: the little girl has taken possession of something that should have been left in the friggin’ woods, and now someone (or something) wants it back PRONTO. What follows is a lackluster series of “spooky” events, and far be it from me to say, I’ve seen creepier stuff watching the evening news. Gooch then tries to bombard the audience with a plethora of instances and swerving plot direction – it’s fun at the beginning but can grow a bit tiresome over a duration.

Performance-wise, both Rayner and Willis play the perfect combination of mentally-shot dad and determined-to-be-independent daughter – their scenes are ripe with subtle contempt, and the right amount of indecision. Overall, the film is best suited for those fans of fantasy/fable-like horror, and while it might not scare the pants off of you, it definitely will give us all another reason to stay the hell out of the woods once and for all.

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3.0

Summary

Children in a forest-setting don’t always add up to cutesy-pie encounters with furry creatures – this one’s got a few scares to keep fans of coppice-horror appeased.

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User Rating 3.56 (18 votes)
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